Not until he has been cured of his madness can the knight Orlando, the “raving Roland”, understand the true joy of love. The story of Alcina’s magical island draws its subject matter from the circle of legends surrounding the knight Roland who is rejected by the woman he loves and loses his mind as a result. Vivaldi had first attempted a musical adaptation of Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso in 1713 when he was director of the Teatro Sant’Angelo in Venice, but the work flopped. In December 1727 another arrangement of this subject matter by Vivaldi appeared in the programme.
Judging by the composer’s autograph score, parts of which have been preserved, it seems that Orlando furioso was a late addition to the programme, since the score shows every sign of having been written in great haste with no time being left even for the obligatory dedication. Vivaldi took the libretto from Giovanni Alberto Ristori’s successful Orlando furioso from 1713. He composed the role of the eponymous hero, which was originally a bass part, especially for the Venetian singer Lucia Lancetti and once again proved his capabilities as a born “musical
storyteller” Klangmaler, utilising the conventional structure of baroque dramma per musica for the purposes of psychological characterisation, especially in the scenes portraying Orlando’s increasing mental derangement.